The Oregon Zoo laid to rest a 27-year-old male sea lion named Gus—the oldest male stellar sea lion in the United States, and perhaps the world—Sunday, following complications of advanced age.
In the wild, male stellar sea lions rarely live past age 18, the Oregon Zoo said in a release.
“Gus was sweet-tempered, gentle and eager to please,” said curator Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo’s marine life section. “We will miss his morning greeting, his chortling commentary when he wandered into the back area to retire for the evening, and the gentle way he communicated what he wanted and needed from his keepers. It will be a lonely time here for quite a while.”
Gus came to Portland in 2004 from Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium and had formed strong bonds with some of the zoo's keepers he'd known for the past 10 years. He also reportedly bonded with some of the Asian elephants, and had his 15 minutes of fame when a touching moment with the elephant Chandra was caught on camera and featured as both an internet meme and in the book Unlikely Loves, a 2013 bestseller National Geographic writer Jennifer S. Holland.
Over the last two years, Zoo staff said they regularly discussed the decline in Gus's health and did their best to keep him comfortable until the time came for him to be euthanized.
“He was very clear on Sunday that it was time, and he went very peacefully,” Cutting said. “I am glad of that, for his and the keepers’ sakes. I sometimes think of humane euthanasia as the last gift we can give the animals we care for — freedom from pain and a peaceful exit, unlike the typical harsh deaths that animals in the wild experience. But it is always acutely painful to lose a friend, and Gus was a very special animal.”
Check out video of Gus living it up on his 27th birthday below.